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Valentine: Balks 'like an epidemic'

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine didn't have an explanation as to why his pitchers are having trouble concentrating on the mound with runners on base and have been called for a total of four balks in the last week, including three during Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.

“I don’t get it,” Valentine said shaking his head. “It’s like an epidemic.”

Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz became the latest victim and the second pitcher in the last nine games to balk in a run.

With the game scoreless in the bottom of the second inning, there were two outs with runners on the corners when Buchholz was called for the miscue, which allowed Tampa’s Carlos Pena to score.

Fellow Red Sox starter Daniel Bard had a similar brain freeze last week.

Buchholz explained the balk after the game, saying his spikes got caught in the clay on the mound.

“In my head I was going third to first,” Buchholz said. “I came up and my back cleat got caught and I tried to spin around and go third to first, so that was that.”

The balks didn’t end with Buchholz.

In the bottom of the seventh, reliever Franklin Morales balked and allowed a runner on first to advance. In the bottom of the eighth, Morales again was called for a balk, allowing Tampa runner Luke Scott to advance to third.

“The first one, I made it, but the second one I didn’t do anything wrong,” Morales said. “I saw the video and all I did was shake my pitch. I didn’t move my hand.”

The three balks were the most by an AL team since Al Leiter had three for Toronto on April 23, 1994 vs. Minnesota.

“I’m a little surprised, but I’m not going to make a big deal about it,” pitching coach Bob McClure said. “You just take a deep breath with runners on base. We’ll probably go two months and not have another one.”